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Prime Living: Family's 40-foot Christmas tree lights up holiday season along Whiskey Road in Aiken

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Whiskey Road, as a huge component in Aiken's economy, has plenty of colorful attractions, and the home of Tom and Diane Miniard adds to the mix this time of year, with a live Christmas tree as a major feature in the front yard, at the intersection with Brandy Road.

The Miniards moved to their current home in 1992, and a Canadian hemlock was already a major part of the landscape, across from Palmetto Golf Club. The tree now has a height of about 40 feet and is strung with lights each year, by way of a bucket truck, in late November. Nearby shrubs get a similar treatment, all with LED bulbs.

Diane, a Realtor with Meybohm, said the annual tradition has its roots in one of her "special" birthdays. Her husband, who is the procurement manager in business services for Savannah River National Laboratory, played a major role.

"Tom asked what I wanted for my present ... and I said, 'Well, I've always told you I wanted lights on that big Christmas tree-looking thing out front,' and he said, 'What tree?'"

The tree, however, was more than a handful, and within a year or two, Gary Young, the owner of Young's Tree Service, stepped in to handle the job, using a bucket truck. The results have included plenty of positive feedback, Diane said. 

"Before Facebook, I used to get a lot of Christmas cards with notes, or cards left on the steps, with notes, and people would knock on the door," she said, recalling some of the ways in which people would respond to express appreciation for the holiday display.

"We had carolers, a few times, during the years. One time, a friend ... brought his middle-school, church-league basketball team. When I opened the door, they were there to carol for us. I thought it was so sweet."

On other occasions, people have left poinsettia plants with a note:"'Merry Christmas, Santa.' 'Thank you for your lights,'" she recalled. 

Another time, the yard was mentioned on a Christian radio station as a place worthy of slowing down to pay attention while traveling along Whiskey Road, en route to see the annual lighting Christmas in Hopelands light display at Hopelands Gardens.

"We're probably going to have to replace it," said the lady of the house, acknowledging that this might be the evergreen's final Christmas season, as it has gotten a rough bill of health in recent months. 

The lights are normally switched on in late November – either the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving. "I know that's not ... liturgically correct, but that's when we do it, to start sharing the season," she said.

The display usually runs through New Year's Eve or the night of Jan. 1, but the plan for this season is to have the lights on until Epiphany (Jan. 6), sometimes known as "the 12th day of Christmas."

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